26 Sep 2018

Twelve-year-old's escape from care 'beggars belief' - judge

7:56 pm on 26 September 2018

A Youth Court judge has blamed Oranga Tamariki for a "shambolic situation" where a 12-year-old charged over a robbery managed to escape from his carer three times in one week.

no caption

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Judge Peter Callinicos said it "beggars belief" that the boy, who was under 24-hour curfew at a Hastings motel, was able to escape from his paid minder.

The child is accused of causing grievous bodily harm to a man during a robbery and was remanded into the care of the Ministry for Children.

Because of his age, police cannot legally hold the boy.

After he escaped he was caught cycling around Hastings on a stolen bike, carrying a hunting knife.

The judge said he found it extremely difficult to understand how the boy was effectively allowed to walk out of the motel, as and when he pleased, without the minder having any ability to restrain or hold him.

"I am told that, apparently, the minder will often wait to see whether the young person eventually comes back before deciding what action to take."

The judge went on to express his concerns about the ability of children to escape while in the care of Oranga Tamariki.

"I record that if this arrangement is a policy of Oranga Tamariki then it is an extremely serious situation, one which is going to lead to tragedy. It is almost in the realms of the bizarre that such an arrangement was permitted to occur in this case, especially hearing in mind the charge that this young person is on and the circumstances of that charge," he said.

The judge said when he discussed the possibility of putting the boy into Oranga Tamariki's care, the agency came up with a number of policies, which the judge said amounted to reasons why they would not take the child into their care.

He reminded the agency of their legal responsibilities, saying the court could order a child be detained under the care of the chief executive if there was a risk the child was likely to abscond, commit further offences or interfere with evidence.

"Quite clearly, he has repeatedly absconded, he has committed further offences."

Judge Callinicos said the agency told him the charge the boy was facing wasn't serious enough for him to be placed in one of their facilities. The boy would have to commit murder or manslaughter for that to happen.

"When that point was raised [the boy] began laughing as if the matter was of humour to him."

Judge Callinicos ordered the boy be detained in the ministry's care.